Frequently Asked Questions

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What is the RMTA?

The Richmond Metropolitan Transportation Authority is an independent authority and political subdivision that was created by an act of the Virginia General Assembly in 1966. It was formed originally to build and maintain a toll expressway system to serve the Richmond metropolitan area. Although the act has been amended to authorize the RMTA to own and operate other System, including parking decks, coliseums and arenas, the act and the Authority’s several bond resolutions prohibit the commingling of funds of various projects. Thus, for example, tolls collected on the expressway system cannot and do not subsidize operations of other System. The RMTA has an 16-member board of directors. The board is comprised of five members appointed by the Richmond City Council; five appointed by Chesterfield County’s Board of Supervisors; five appointed by Henrico County’s Board of Supervisors; and one from the Commonwealth of Virginia Transportation Board.

How is paying a toll different than paying taxes?

It may appear that a toll is another form of taxation, but there is a crucial difference. Taxation cannot be avoided. A toll road can. It is an option. There are alternate routes drivers could use instead of taking a toll road. Paying a toll is a prime example of a user fee. The drivers who use the toll road pay for it. The benefit of the toll road is only the people who use it are charged to cover the expense of constructing and maintaining it.

Where does the RMTA get its money?

The RMTA gets income from fees charged at its facilities. On the RMTA Expressway System, the fee is in the form of tolls. The tolls are required by law and contract with the bondholders to be sufficient to maintain and operate the expressway system and pay debt service on the outstanding bonds. The RMTA doesn’t receive tax dollars (federal, state or local) nor do we get any of the gasoline tax.

When was the last time RMTA increased tolls?

The tolls were increased effective September 1, 2023 due to increasing costs of maintenance and capital improvements. Prior to this increase, the tolls were previously increased in 2008, 1998, and 1988. It is estimated that continued maintenance and capital improvements to the Expressway System for the next 6 years will reach $96.3 million. The Authority’s last toll increase was in 1998. Prior to 1998, the last toll increase occurred in 1988. The toll rates are certified by the RMTA’s traffic and revenue consultants after determining the amount needed to pay for operating costs, repair and contingency fund deposits, and expressway debt service. Each year, they send a certification letter. The bond indentures require the RMTA to repay a specified portion of the principal each year as well as payments on the interest. All toll increases are approved by the RMTA Board of directors.

What responsibilities does the RMTA have to its bondholders?

Our bondholders lend us the money that we repay with interest. They are similar to stockholders in that they make this investment to make money.



When you borrow money to purchase an automobile, for example, the bank will hold the title as collateral. The RMTA’s collateral is the revenue we earn collecting tolls. Just like the person who borrows to buy a car or a home, the RMTA must repay the principal borrowed and interest.



The bond indenture (the contract between the RMTA and the bondholders) specifies the repayment conditions of the loan. The RMTA’s bond indentures require the Authority to maintain a cash reserve to protect the bondholders should some catastrophic event prevent the repayment of the bonds. The reserve would cover the debt service (payments) during the recovery period. Bonds are scheduled to be paid off in 2041.

How much toll revenue does the RMTA take in each year?

The COVID-19 global pandemic beginning in 2020 greatly impacted the Authority’s finances given that revenue is derived solely from drivers who use the roads. The Powhite Parkway, Forest Hill Interchange, Downtown Expressway, Boulevard Bridge and all the toll machines at on- and off-ramps generated 29.6 million in fiscal year 2021. The RMTA is audited annually by a certified auditing firm.

How much does it cost to run the expressway system?

The total expense of the Expressway System includes not just operating expenses, but also the repayment of bonds and payments into the Repair and Contingency (R&C) Fund. The bond debt is repaid with one annual payment to principal and two payments to interest.



The RMTA also maintains a reserve that was established when the bonds were issued. That money is held by the trustee and invested.

How many transactions does the RMTA conduct annually, monthly, daily?

In fiscal year 2021, the RMTA conducted 47.4 million transactions (“traffic volume”) on its Expressway System. The toll rates for two-axle vehicles were 70 cents for the Downtown Expressway, Powhite Parkway, and Forest Hill Interchange; 35 cents for the Boulevard and 2nd Street Ramps, 30 cents for the 11th Street Ramps, and 20 cents for the Douglasdale Road Ramps. Also, rates were higher for vehicles with more than two axles. Therefore, it would be inaccurate to multiply the traffic volume by 70 cents to determine annual revenue, as some have tried to do.



It is difficult to estimate a daily average since there is a dramatic difference in traffic numbers between a weekday and a weekend day. The RMTA’s expressway system is primarily a commuter route. The numbers drop significantly on the weekend.



There are a lot of factors that impact traffic, including weather, summer vacation, major events with large attendance. , The COVID-19 global pandemic that began in 2020 impacted traffic, and we have yet to fully recover.

Why is the speed limit in the “fast lanes” (ORT) only 45 mph?

The Posted Speed limit through the Open Road Tolling zones (ORT or E-ZPass Lanes) on the Downtown Expressway and Powhite Parkway is 45 mph. The Design Speed limit on any section of road is determined by various geometric features including, but not limited to the following: roadway superelevation, vertical and horizontal curve alignments, sight distance, surrounding topography, traffic weaving patterns, adjacent land use and functional classification of the roadway.



During the planning and design of the ORT zones, traffic engineering studies were performed and the roadway features analyzed. The studies determined a maximum Design Speed of 45 mph. And based on VDOT’s Road & Bridge Standard Specifications for low-speed designs of 45 mph or less, the Design Speed shall be equal to or greater than the Posted Speed. In other words, the Posted Speed can’t be greater than the Design Speed.



Therefore, to ensure public safety, roadway design utilizes roadway geometry, traffic volumes, free-flowing traffic speed and the volume of merging vehicles to dictate a maximum allowable Posted Speed limit. And in the case of the ORT zones on the Downtown Expressway and Powhite Parkway, is 45 mph.

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Financial Documents

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